DESPITE the Stormers losing two out of two Super Rugby matches, coach Allister Coetzee says that his team produced a “much better effort” in going down to the Sharks in Durban.
The Stormers again made a number of unforced errors at Kings Park in a 12-6 defeat, but Coetzee felt that the humid conditions made handling difficult on Saturday night. The last time that the Stormers didn’t win either of their first two matches was in 2008, where they lost three in a row.
The Cape side did show improvement in the lineouts, and conceded fewer penalties in the scrums, but adopted an unimaginative gameplan from the start. Flyhalf Elton Jantjies and Co were instructed to use the boot liberally by Coetzee, with the Stormers appearing to be scared to make mistakes by holding on to possession, even inside the Sharks’ half.
The coach, though, said that it was the right way to go. “It was a much better effort from the players. It was a dogfight, so to say, and their attitude and effort was much better. I must say that the two things (problems) were the unforced errors and the penalty count,” Coetzee told the Cape Times yesterday.
“I thought tactically, we played the right game. It was quite difficult conditions to play in. Although it looked easy from the side to handle the ball, it wasn’t in the humidity. We both tried, and both sides had a lot of errors. But if you want to become a championship side and be there at the end, you’ve got to get that right.”
While conditions were slippery, the Stormers had some good opportunities to attack and counter-attack, but still opted to kick the ball away. Jantjies was particularly guilty of this – on one occasion, with the Stormers enjoying a penalty advantage inside the Sharks 22 and with an overlap on his outside, he chose to attempt a drop goal instead of passing the ball down the line.
The way replacement scrumhalf Louis Schreuder kicked the ball away in the last minute with the Stormers needing a try to win epitomised the team’s negative approach.
When asked if the Stormers kicked too much and failed to identify try-scoring opportunities out wide with poor decision-making, Coetzee said: “No, definitely not. I think our decision-making was very good, because that’s exactly the trap that you could fall into – it looks like it’s on, but it’s not on. Then you are turned over and make a mistake, and then you’re worse off in those conditions. So, I was pleased with our tactical approach and how the guys executed the kicks, it was brilliant execution of kicks.
“I thought we could’ve been better in terms of aerial skills – in the air, catching the ball. But the kick execution and the decision of when to kick and where to kick, I was very happy with that.”
Peter Grant replaced Jantjies with 25 minutes to go, but Coetzee suggested that the on-loan Lions player may hold on to his No 10 jersey for Saturday’s clash against the defending champion Chiefs at Newlands.
“Improved performance (by Jantjies). That was what I want from the team every week. We had our opportunities. A brilliant tactical kick by Elton, and if Gio (Aplon) had caught it, it would probably have been under the sticks. A few penalties that could have gone our way, where I feel that the calls are not going in our favour at this point in time,” he said.
“I’m happy with the way Elton played. One has got to understand that Peter Grant hasn’t played under this intensity for a while now. The 25 minutes or so that he got was good for him, and we have two good flyhalves. How I’m going to manage the two is going to be crucial, but I think that Elton, with the responsibilities that he had and putting through those kicks ... the kick to Gio Aplon would’ve been a try, and his confidence would’ve grown from that.”
But bad news for the Stormers is that injured fullback Jaco Taute and centre Juan de Jongh are “highly unlikely” to face the Chiefs, according to Coetzee. Hooker Tiaan Liebenberg has now recovered from his back problems and will be available for selection, while utility forward Michael Rhodes (hamstring) will hope to return to training this week.
Coetzee believes that his team can hit back against the Chiefs even though the men from Hamilton dispatched the Cheetahs 45-3 at the weekend. “We can absolutely turn the results around. As long as we gain confidence in the processes and the way we play, we can do it. There is still a long way to go. If you look at how many teams won away from home this weekend, it’s none,” he said.
“We know a win is important and we need that. But there’s progress in our side – the effort was unbelievable, the attitude unbelievable. We were very strong on defence and in the collisions. Those are the things that can take you forward in the competition.
“Sometimes you win and you forget about fixing things, and when a big day comes around at the crucial stage of the competition, then it’s too late to fix them. That’s exactly what’s happening with this team. It’s progressing.”